Friday, February 27, 2009

grumpy hippies & the little red hen

We're well into snowbird season now at the end of February and the usual mellow and easy pace of life in Cocoa Beach becomes somewhat more intense through the end of March. Traffic is not what the locals are used to and the strain is starting to show. It starts innocently enough late in January with an ill-timed U turn at 520 and A1A holding up traffic through two light changes and progresses to daily no-tee-time-available status at the Cocoa Beach Country Club. Blocker cars piloted by wrap-around-goggle wearing shuffleboard aces are strategically spaced out along A1A, cruise controls locked on 28 MPH, effectively turning normal traffic flow into a Macy's parade without balloons and making a short drive up the beach an exercise in time management. At the Publix grocery store, shoppers must first navigate the all-male scrum around the free coffee at the front of the store to gain access to the actual game surface. Past the registers the shopping becomes much more competitive with success depending on a shopper's ability to take or avoid the aggressive checks being thrown on every aisle by the coffee-drinkers' partners. The approach to the check-out line can be the defining moment as players jockey for the shortest line when a well-placed titanium hip shot from Gretsky's grandma with a full cart and a handful of coupons can turn a quick trip for a deli sandwich into a thirty minute outing. While these are all minor irritations, they are a favorite subject this time of year and we all indulge, from the laid back bicycle-riding Beach Shack drinking crew to the grumpy hippies at the Co-op. We love our snowbirds but we like to grumble as well. Ain't that America.

Why did the chicken in the photo above cross the road? Trick question. This chicken does not cross the road. I often see this little red hen in the morning between 5th and 6th Street South always on the ocean side of A1A. I've been noticing her for about a year now and her survival along that stretch of road during the morning traffic tells me that she is either very lucky or she does not cross the road. Hey, when you live on the ocean, why cross the road?

"We take the shortest route to the puck and arrive in ill humor."
______________Bobby Clarke

Monday, February 23, 2009

Price it Right and They Will Come

So far this month, 15 MLS listed condos have sold and closed in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. While four of those units were listed for eight months or longer, six of the sold units were on the market less than 30 days. Also, of interest, is the fact that only one of the six quick sales offered less than 3% commission to the buyer's agent, one offered 4% and another offered 5%. (Readers of this blog can guess what complex that was.)

Quick takeaway for sellers; if you price it right, you stand a better chance of selling it quickly. Deduce what you will from the commission stats. I've already ranted about the distasteful implications of the inflated commission tactic, so, I won't go into it again. You can read my post from last year here if you missed it.

Inventory continues to shrink. Many of the weak hands have already had their day of reckoning. If you're looking for a steal be prepared to move quickly when the opportunity presents itself.

MLS Inventory Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral- Feb. 23, 2009

  • Condominiums______698 all prices
  • __________________93 over $500,000
  • Single family homes__111 all prices
  • __________________33 over $500,000
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."____________Albert Einstein

Friday, February 20, 2009

It's the Thought That Counts

This fascinating word cloud was created at from the entire text of one of my recent posts with word size being proportional to number of mentions in the post. My brain tells me I can understand the gist of the original post just looking at the cloud. Will sentences eventually be replaced by this or some other form of visual poetry?

"If only we could pull out our brain and use only our eyes."
_______________________Pablo Picasso

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pharaoh Has Arrived

Ancient Egyptian temple in Florida? No. Just a corner of the new Dinosaur Store and Museum on 520 in Cocoa Beach just west of A1A.

This morning I was reading a draft of a post from one year ago in which I was parsing the reduction in the Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral condo inventory and whether or not it signaled some recovery in the market. My conclusion then (Feb 2008) was that there was no indication of recovery. Even with January sales holding steady at the previous 2 years' levels and inventory 17% lower than the high point set in May 2006, the Feb. 2008 absorption rate was at an all time high. Fast forward to February 2009 and the trend is intact. Condo inventory has dropped to two thirds of the May 2006 peak but sales have resumed their slowdown with January 2009 condo sales almost 40% behind January 2008. It seems likely that this trend will continue.

Take-away action points:

Sellers, continue to reduce your expectations and treat all offers as an invitation to negotiate no matter how crazy low they may be. Emotional responses can be costly.

Buyers, be bold but try not to let your schadenfreude show during negotiations. No matter how obvious a seller's desperation, it is possible to destroy your chances of getting a deal with ungracious negotiation tactics.

The most difficult thing in any negotiation, almost, is making sure that you strip it of the emotion and deal with the facts.
_______________________Howard Baker

Monday, February 16, 2009

Direct Ocean under $250,000

Check out the view from this small, 2nd floor direct ocean unit. If you're uncertain about committing big dollars for an ocean condo but would still like something nice with a view, this unit might fit the bill. This beautifully tricked-out unit will likely sell in the low $200s. The next lowest MLS price of a direct ocean unit above the first floor is $260,000. You can see the details of the complete $70,000+ remodel in the slideshow here.

This is not my listing. It's here because it's the lowest priced, 2nd floor or higher, direct ocean unit with a view that I'm aware of in Cocoa Beach or Cape Canaveral. I know that many of you are looking for something in this price range but have been disappointed with the stickiness of ocean condo prices.

Observe the opportunity.
_______Ecclesiasticus (ch. IV, v. 20)

Saturday, February 07, 2009

What Goes Up ...

Notable price drops and new listings since February 1st from the Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach MLS.

Brand new, foreclosed, never lived in 2300+ sq.ft. canal home off Minutmen Cswy.

Two year old, 7 bedroom, 4.5 bath, 6300+ sq.ft. canal home with all the bells and whistles, Originally asking $1.3 million, dropped to

A 2 year old, 2300+ sq.ft., 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath townhome in Cape Canaveral that sold new for $450,000, offered this week as a short sale, suggested price; _______$199,500

Two year old, 3 bedroom, 3 bath, 2100+ sq.ft. river condo in south Cocoa Beach, sold new in 2007 for $549,900, now offered (not a short sale) for

A 3 bedroom, 2 bath Cape Canaveral townhome that sold new in 2006 for $255,000, now offered as a short sale, suggested price,
_______________________ $149,900

And crazy price drop of the month, the previously profiled 4300+ sq.ft. canal home that started at $1,199,000 last June posted it's 29th teensy price drop this month to bring it to a still-too-high $979,000.

There are plenty of others out there but I thought these would be interesting. As I've mentioned in recent posts, if you're not paying cash, be prepared to pony up more than you thought for a down payment. Talk to a lender now to find out what may be required of you for a mortgage, especially if it's a condo, AND, pray for warmer weather.

Well he who waits for the day's riches will be lost
In the whispering tide

Where the river flows

Tomorrow never knows

__________Bruce Springsteen

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Unintended Consequences

A quiet Cocoa Beach canal junction on a sunny February morning.

Price erosion has not moved pari passu for all property types in our market. While all have suffered, some segments, have been more resilient than others, like weekly rental oceanfront condos. The upper end of the condo market has not shared that resiliency. There have been only two closed sales of condos since January 1 in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral for more than $350,000, both short sales. One was a 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath, 3024 sq. ft. Crescent Palms penthouse that sold new in December 2005 for $775,000 and changed hands last week for $380,000. The other was a Meridian unit that sold just 18 months ago for $699,900 and closed last week for $550,000.

The weak sales trend of December (15 closed sales) continued in January with a total of 16 closed MLS condo sales in the two cities compared to 26 units last January. Two single family homes have closed since January 1. Inventory of condos and townhouses is hovering just over 700 in all price ranges with 92 of those asking over $500,000.

The intention of the new Fannie Mae condo loan requirements in January was to lessen risk, but, the consequences are fewer qualifying complexes and fewer able-to-perform purchasers. If the new, higher down payment requirements weren't enough, the root-canal-like condo certification questionnaire will make some condo complexes off limits for Fannie loans. If you are buying or selling a condo anywhere in Florida and a Fannie Mae loan is involved, be prepared to be frustrated. If you are buying with cash, feel free to wear your crown while shopping. You rule.

"Bureaucracy is a giant mechanism operated by pygmies."
___________________________Honore de Balzac